Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew believes that midfielder Cheick Tiote is looking 'ten times better' than he was in the last campaign.
Pardew looked on from the sidelines as Tiote produced a brilliant display in Newcastle's goalless draw against Dutch side ADO Den Haag on Saturday.
Tiote returned to Holland for the first time since his move from FC Twente to Newcastle two years ago.
Pardew believes that Tiote did not have the best of starts to the 2011/12 season, but this year looks positive according to the Newcastle boss.
He said in the Shields Gazette: "Cheick looks ten times better than he did last year, and I absolutely mean that.
"He did not come back well last summer, if I am honest. However, he has summered well this time and is in great physical shape.
"It is going to be a big season for Cheick.
"All my, what I would call big players, are important if we are to progress as a team, and Cheick fails into that category. He is in a good place."